Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) remains the deadliest malignant brain tumor, with glioma stem cells (GSCs) contributing to treatment resistance and tumor recurrence. We have identified MAPK-interacting kinases (MNKs) as potential targets for the GSC population in GBM. Isoform-level subtyping using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) revealed that both MNK genes (MKNK1 and MKNK2) are upregulated in mesenchymal GBM as compared to other subtypes. Expression of MKNK1 is associated with increased glioma grade and correlated with the mesenchymal GSC marker, CD44; and co-expression of MKNK1 and CD44 predicts poor survival in GBM. In established and patient-derived cell lines, pharmacological MNK inhibition using LY2801653 (merestinib) inhibited phosphorylation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E), a crucial effector for MNK induced mRNA translation in cancer cells and a marker of transformation. Importantly, merestinib inhibited growth of GSCs grown as neurospheres as determined by extreme limiting dilution analysis (ELDA). When the effects of merestinib were assessed in vivo using an intracranial xenograft mouse model, improved overall survival was observed in merestinib-treated mice. Taken together, these data provide strong preclinical evidence that pharmacological MNK inhibition targets mesenchymal GBM and its GSC population. Implications: These findings raise the possibility of MNK inhibition as a viable therapeutic approach to target the mesenchymal subtype of GBM.
- Received May 12, 2016.
- Accepted June 11, 2016.
- Copyright ©2016, American Association for Cancer Research.